The most common type of stick-on bra is made of silicone but there are ones that look almost the same as the silicone one pictured but are made of foam. You can also get fabric ones that look more like a normal strapless bra that has had the back cut off. They usually have adhesive on the side wings to hold them on.
What size to get
The first problem with this sort of bra is knowing what size to get. They are often sold as A, B or C cup, but without having a band size the cup size is meaningless. A woman who wears a 30C bra will have much smaller breasts than a woman who wears a 38C. Generally these sorts of bras don’t go up very far in sizes, if you have large breasts you will probably have trouble finding one that fits. If you are buying it in a store you will have to judge by looking at it, you may not be able to take it out of the packaging. If you are buying it online check the return policy and also check whether it can be returned after opening, some stores will consider it an intimate item and won’t accept returns for issues like wrong sizing if it’s been opened (if it’s a faulty product they should still accept returns). The silicone ones will give you more leeway with sizing than you would with a normal bra. The cups don’t have to completely cover your breasts, as long as you’ve got the front bits covered and it feels secure and isn’t bulging you should be ok, they’ll just be more like large nipple covers.
Don’t apply over broken, damaged or sun-burned skin.
If you are worried you will have a reaction to the adhesive do a patch test first by using a small piece on yourself. The inside of your arm is a good place as it isn’t hairy so won’t hurt as much when you take it off.
Don’t use moisturizers or powders on the area before you apply it, they will make it harder for it to stick to your skin.
Adhesives can come loose if you are sweating a lot. Try to avoid using them if this will be a problem, or make sure the adhesive is in an area where you don’t sweat much.
Clean and dry the skin before sticking anything to it, wiping with rubbing alcohol will help remove oils and dirt.
Have a hot shower or soak in the bath if you are having trouble getting it off.
If you have sticky residue left on your skin after removal you can get rid of it by using some baby oil on cotton wool and rubbing gently. Solvents like nail polish remover will work too but they aren’t as gentle on your skin.
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A balconette bra is a type of demi cup bra, which basically means the cups are low to allow you to wear fairly low cut clothing. A balconette bra usually has a more of a horizontal line along the top of the cups, which makes it quite different from a plunge bra, which goes very low between the breasts.
‘Balconette’ has become a loosely used term, so when you see it you can’t really be sure what you are getting. Some people even use it to describe a shelf bra (cup less) bra. The one thing all ‘balconette’ bras should have in common is that they have quite low cut cups, underwire and quite widely set straps.
A bandeau bra is shaped like a strip over your breasts, sometimes with ruching in the middle. They are kind of a cross between a strapless bra and a tube top. They are made of stretchy fabric so don’t normally have a fastening in the back, instead they go on over your head. Like many strapless bras they often come with detachable straps so you can wear them with or without.
As there is little to no shaping this isn’t a supportive bra, it really only works well for smaller breasts. If you are bigger and need something more supportive you are better to go with a classic style strapless bra. You can get variations of bandeau bras that have wires and padding to give more lift but a classic bandeau bra is really just a strip of stretchy fabric. In saying that they can be a fun piece of stretchy fabric that often come in exciting colors and prints, and can be really comfy for smaller busts.
The bandeau shape has been used in tops and bikinis for a long time, so unlike most bras they don’t have to strictly be underwear, often they are worn to show under clothes for a layered effect.
Contour/Molded Cup bra
A contour or molded cup bra means the cups have been shaped by machine to fit the shape of your breasts. There is a slight difference between them (read this article for a full explanation) but the terms are so often used interchangeably that its best if you understand the features you are looking for rather than getting hung up on what the manufacturer is calling it.
Contour bra cups are shaped from fabric and a thin layer of foam, they will hold their shape whether they are on or off. Because each cup is shaped from one piece of material they are seamless across the cup making them good for wearing with any clothes where seams would show through. The thin layer of foam also helps to disguise any outline from the nipple, so they are popular for that reason too. T-shirt bras are a common type of contour bra. Push-up bras are also often made with this type of cup.
Convertible (also called multi-way) bras are a must to own. The straps come off and have hooks so you can reattach them in different ways to wear with clothes where the straps of a standard bra would show.
What strap configurations it can do will depend on which one you get, so check before you buy. The straps will have hooks at each end and there will be lots of slots that they can hook into on the bra. Sometimes they won’t say all of the possible options on the tag so look for where the slots are to figure out which ones it can do.
Most common strap options
Every convertible bra should be able to do a classic bra shape, halter neck and crossover back. Not all can go strapless or low back, usually the same bra won’t do both of these options so make sure you check first. To do strapless it will need to have cups that aren’t peaked at the top and are firm so they can stay up without the straps (see image below).
From left: Halter neck, crossover back, strapless, low back as seen from the front, low back as seen from behind.
Less common strap options
These ones are still pretty hard to find in shops but there are a few with quite unusual strap options that are cropping up on the internet. Most of the options are just for show so you feel like you are getting more for your money. The strap isn’t actually doing much in a lot of these cases, it’s basically the same as if you were to wear a strapless bra. For example with the one shoulder options, if the strap was holding you up it would make one breast much higher than the rest, the support is coming from underneath – like a strapless bra does.
From left: the first 3 are for a narrow front and have extra places for the hooks to go than is standard, one shoulder option, low back with a low back extender.
The low back option in the image above requires an extra strap that hooks into the back of your bra, instead of it doing up like it normally does.
Full Cup bra/Full Covered
The cups on a full cup bra completely cover the breasts. They offer the most support of any type of bra so are a popular choice for women with large cup sizes. As they are designed for women who want more support and comfort, the shoulder straps are usually wider too. Sports bras should always have full cups.
If you have trouble with bulging over the top of lower cut bras then try full cups. The cup comes up high enough that they will fully contain your breasts so you will get a smooth line.
The main downside to full cup bras is that they will be visible with anything that comes down even slightly low. Anything with a higher neck, like most t-shirts or sweaters will be fine with a full cup bra.
Half Cup bra/Demi bra
Ah, the sensual demi cup. This bra style covers roughly half of the breast, and lifts your girls’ front and center for added cleavage. ‘Demi’ describes a style of cup shape for a bra. It is quite low, it only just comes up over the nipple and usually plunges quite low to show cleavage. The shoulder straps are also set widely apart.
It’s a great cut for most breast sizes and shapes, but doesn’t provide the best support if you’re very well endowed. Because the top of the cups are low and the straps are far apart demi cup bras are great for low cut, scoop neck or wide necklines.
Maternity and Nursing bras
Most of the time the terms ‘maternity bra’ and ‘nursing bra’ mean the same thing and are used interchangeably. Strictly speaking a maternity bra is for while you are pregnant and has the features you need for comfort and support during that time. A nursing bra will have some way to easily access your breasts for breastfeeding, normally this is done with drop down cups that have clips. Many of the features you would want from a bra while pregnant and while nursing cross over, so a lot of the time all those features are are combined into the same bra. This means they will work equally well for whether you are pregnant or breastfeeding and you can hopefully save on needing to buy as many bras. This is why the terms have generally come to mean the same thing.
Minimizer bras are designed for women with average to large breasts who want them to appear smaller. Depending on your size a minimizer bra could reduce your bust measurement by an inch or two. The cups offer full coverage and are made of elasticated fabric which helps to compress the breasts, whilst still giving a good silhouette.
Minimizer bras are great for clothes that look good with a sleek look, or to help you fit into clothes that are a bit too tight across the bust. Clothes are generally designed to suit a ‘standard shape’ which can make it very hard for large breasted women to buy tailored clothes that fit well. If you have had this issue then definitely give a minimizer bra a go. They can also make the difference between being able to wear a button shirt without it gaping open and not. Another tip for dealing with a button shirt that’s peaking open is to use a small piece of fashion tape to secure it between the buttons.
Due to the full cups they won’t go well with anything low cut so aren’t as versatile as some bras, but the difference they can make in reducing size makes them a very useful bra to own if you have a large bust.
Generally you should be the same size in a minimizer bra as a standard one, you don’t need to get it smaller to squish everything in. Keep in mind that sizing between brands can be inconsistent and a lot of women wear the wrong size bra anyway. With this one getting the fight fit is important to how well it will reduce your size so it’s a good idea to get a proper fitting done.
A padded bra has padding in the base of the cup to lift your breast and give the appearance of larger breasts. Padding can also refer to a light padding through the cup to hide any nipple shape, but usually when people talk about a padded bra they are meaning the type that makes your bust look larger.
Padded bras come in a variety of different shapes and styles, they could be t-shirt bras, demi cup, push up or a combination of shapes. Whatever style they are you won’t be able to tell from looking at them on if they are padded or not.
The padding can be made of a variety of materials, some are foam or silicone rubber, others use gels and liquids that shape to your body and will feel more like real breasts. The padding is removable in some bras, a pocket is built into the base of the cup so you can easily take the padded inserts in and out.
Plunge bras are designed so you can wear low cut clothes without your bra showing. The cups join together low between the breasts, with a thin center piece. Usually the shoulder straps are wide, so you can wear any necklines that are widely cut as well as low.
When you are buying a plunge bra try leaning forward in it while you are in the changing room. This is to check your breasts don’t fall out the front, which can happen if it isn’t the right fit for you.
Push-up bras do exactly what they say, they push your breasts up and together to give maximum cleavage. They are usually plunge bras as well, this means the cups join low between the breasts so you can wear something low to show them off. They are padded so your breasts can appear a couple of cup sizes larger than they are. They are great if your breasts are smaller and you want to draw attention to them and make them look bigger.
Some will have removable padding or inserts, in other ones the padding will be built in. Some even contain gel padding that will mold to your shape and give the look and feel of real breasts. If you already have full breasts and want the look of a push-up bra but don’t want to add any extra size look for ones where the padding is removable.
Sports bras are designed to give you support during physical activity. There are different types that will work better for different activities. A sports bra for yoga should be really comfortable and offer greater movement, whereas one for jogging should be firm enough to remove bounce and also breathe well to reduce sweating.
The shape of sports bras can vary greatly. A racer back is quite common as it gives your arms and shoulders a good range of motion, the straps can’t fall down and they can be quite supportive. Some have under wires but it is quite common for them not to have them as many people find them uncomfortable. If they are digging in at all the repetitive motion of exercise can cause rubbing and they could end up being painful. If you prefer the support of under wires don’t be put off by that, you can still get them just make sure they feel good when on.
Tips for buying a sports bra
The bounce test. Never buy a sports bra without first jumping up and down, and side to side in the changing room with it on. You may get some funny looks when you come out but it’s the most reliable way to check if a sports bra is going to work for you.
As well as bouncing try stretching a bit too, this will make sure you have a good range of movement in it.
If the activity you will be wearing it for is going to make you sweat then look for one that has mesh sections or uses a wicking fabric like COOLMAX to draw sweat away from your body.
Look for any bits that could cause chafing. There could be a bulky join on the strap that could rub, or if it has an underwire that isn’t fitting you quite right and digging in that could end up quite painful after a workout.
How do the straps feel? Are they wide and comfy or digging in? Remember than any discomfort you are feeling while you have it on is going to be amplified by a work out.
Try a range of quite different sports bras on when you are in the store, looking out for the points mentioned above. This is a quick way to get down to the style that will suit you.
Strapless bras often come as convertible bras with detachable straps or you can also get bandeau bras. For most cases I would recommend a classic style strapless bra like the one pictured, bandeau bras don’t have under-wires to shape them so are tighter across the top of the bust and can cause bulging unless you have a perfect fit or small breasts.
Tips for buying a strapless bra
Getting the right fit is more important for a strapless bra than a normal one. All of the support comes from through the band, you have no straps to help so you need to get one that is quite firm around your body. If it’s too tight it will be uncomfortable but if it’s too loose it will keep slipping and you will be pulling it up all the time. Try to get the right balance between the two, having an experienced bra fitter help you is a good idea. The place you want it to feel firm is from underneath the cup, it shouldn’t be tight across the top of the cup as this will cause bulging above the bra.
Often strapless bras will have areas of silicone that will help it to grip against your skin and prevent it slipping down. A silicone strip is used to help prevent slipping
The cups need to be able to stay up without sagging so they should be made of a firm material.
The band that goes around you should be quite wide in the sides. Often they will have vertical boning in the side to offer additional support.
Worried about using a strapless bra with large breasts?
Try one that comes lower in the body under the cups to offer more support from below. Usually there will be more boning through the body too.
A T-shirt bra has seamless contour cups that are designed to give a smooth look under tight or lightweight fabric. The cups are lightly padded to stop the shape of your nipples showing through.
If you don’t want to add any size to your breasts look for ones that are thinly padded through the cup but not padded underneath like a push-up bra is.